Life on the Salt
The salt flats may be devoid
of vegetation but they are rich in wildlife. While some birds nest here,
others feed on salt brine flies.
Unique to the Refuge
Selenite crystals can
grow the length of a pencil and weigh up to 38 pounds. Dig deep and find
Enjoy, Explore, Learn
Educators – bring your
indoor classroom outside. The refuge is a great place to learn about science,
math, art, history and more.
For Wildlife & You
Refuges are managed for wildlife and habitat and to ensure future generations
will always have wild places to explore!
In 1903 President
Theodore Roosevelt established the Pelican Island Bird Reservation, the first of
53 federal reserves he would create during his time in office and the roots of
what is today known as the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 26th president
was a dedicated naturalist throughout his life and is considered by many to have
been the country’s “Conservationist President.”History of the Refuge System
About the NWRS
The National Wildlife Refuge System, within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages a national network of lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants.
Learn more about the NWRS
Snowy plovers nest on the
refuge’s salt flats where the female uses pebbles and skeletons of
invertebrates to line the nest and vegetation to keep the eggs warm. Chicks
are very independent and will leave the nest within hours of hatching. Parents
train the young to watch for predators and signal them to lie flat on the
ground when danger is near. The snowy plover’s favorite meal is succulent
brine flies found in the salt lake. These tiny bugs are nutrient-rich and help
quench the bird’s thirst. When the flies dive into the salty waters, a bubble
forms around them that provides oxygen for up to 15 minutes. As the flies swim
below, the snowy plover wait along the shore line ready to catch a meal when
the flies are forced to surface.
Salt Plains National
Wildlife Refuge is the only known site in the world where unique selenite
crystals with hourglass inclusions are found. Because these crystals form in wet
soil, sand and clay, particles are included within the crystal giving them their
unique "hourglass" shape inside.
Page Photo Credits All photos courtesy of USFWS unless otherwise noted., Marsh wetlands / Ted C. MacRae ©, White Pelicans / USFWS, Hourglass selenite crystal / John Betts ©, Presentation for students / USFWS, Turtle floating / Jenny and Oliver Davis ©, President Theodore Roosevelt, Western snowy plover mother and chick / USFWS, Hourglass selenite crystal / USFWS
Last Updated: Dec 11, 2014